Cape hunt heritage ride sounds echoes of the past

Horses, hounds and huntsmen gathered for the Cape Drag Hunt Heritage Ride at Alphen Estate on Sunday.

Passers-by at the Alphen Estate, on Sunday, could have been forgiven for thinking they had stepped back in time as horses, hounds and huntsmen gathered for the Cape Drag Hunt Heritage Ride.

Drag hunting last took place in Constantia about 200 years ago when the Cape Hunt Club was established, according to Vince Markram, one of the organisers of Sunday’s event.

The then governor at the Cape, Lord Charles Somerset, a big supporter of the hunt in England, was instrumental in bringing the first fox hounds to the Cape around 1814 and the club was formalised in 1822, said Mr Markram.

The Constantia hunt was established as a result of the friendship forged between the governor and Thomas Frederick Dreyer, the then owner of the Alphen farm who hosted regular parties at the manor house, built in 1743.

Fast forward 200 years, and the Constantia Valley is now part of a bustling city with only a few remnants of this bygone era. But on Sunday, the public got a taste of those times as stirrup cups of sherry were served to riders in their red and scarlet coats.

Equestrians came from far and wide including Telana Rapp, from Malmesbury, who blew her hunting horn and gave commands to the hounds as they jumped excitedly from their cages.

Mr Markram said some of the hounds were descendants of those that had hunted in Somerset’s time. After parading on the lawns of the Alphen Hotel courtyard it was back into the cages – Sunday’s event was a ride, not an actual hunt.

Prior to the riders leaving for a jaunt through the greenbelts, Dudley Cloete Hopkins, whose family owns the Alphen Estate, thanked them for coming and urged them not to wait another 200 years before they returned.

Telana Rapp from Malmesbury calling the hounds with her hunting horn.
Ian Hurst from Fish Hoek, left, watched by Danielle Malan of Brackenfell and Wayne Mischaux of Durbanville.
Horses lining up to be photographed.
Vince and Renata Markram of Constantia.
The hounds were let loose from their cages and excitedly wagged their tails.
Dudley Cloete Hopkins, whose family owns the Alphen Estate, thanks the riders for coming.